Saturday, June 4, 2016

First Come First Served: a 10% Discount Code for Vuze Camera


The Vuze camera, the first fully spherical 3D 360-degree camera is available for preorder. I have a one-time use 10% discount code for the Vuze (I already ordered one for myself). Anyone can use the code but it will work only for the first person to use it, and only until June 6. If you try to use it and it's rejected, it means someone else beat you to it.

I intentionally avoided sharing this post on Twitter or Google+ so that perhaps it would be used by a regular reader. :)

Here's the preorder link: http://vuze.camera/product/vuze-vr-kit/
Here's the discount code: kgjs-ejvb-kljd 


Helmet with built-in 360-degree camera to be tested at Isle of Man TT


This is the Bell Pro Star, a motorcycle hemet with a built-in 360-degree camera. It was jointly developed by Bell helmets and 360fly. They will be testing the helmet at the 2016 Isle of Man TT, one of the most important annual races for motorcycling.

The new helmet will be based on the existing Pro Star, Bell's flagship model that retails for $1199 to $1299. For the new helmet, expect at least $500 to be added to that price, for the cost of the 360fly 4k camera. It is definitely premium-priced but is arguably safer than a normal helmet with a 360-degree camera attached through other means, which protrudes and can snag on objects or the road during a crash, increasing the likelihood of a potentially fatal or debilitating neck injury.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Samsung Gear 360 now shipping in UK


The Samsung Gear 360 is now available in the UK directly through Samsung. The price is £349. 


Thanks to Paul Gailey Albuquerque for spotting this and bringing it to my attention!

Samsung Gear 360 User Manual (English)

If you want to know how to use the Samsung Gear 360 and its features, even before buying it (or considering whether to buy it), you can check out the user manual.  HERE is a link to the manual. 




There's a PDF version but so far it's in Korean only.

More Samples from Insta360 Nano spherical 360-degree camera for iPhone





Insta360 posted on YouTube a couple more samples from Insta360 Nano, the spherical 360-degree camera for iPhone.










For related posts on the Insta360 Nano, click HERE.

Livestream from the Ricoh Theta S in 1080p with Streambox VR


You can now livestream from the Ricoh Theta S in 1080p @ 30fps with Streambox VR's cloud-based service.  Instead of the Theta's USB port, Streambox uses the Theta's HDMI Port.  Streambox Cloud will stitch the raw video from the Theta in real time and deliver a video stream to a YouTube 360 Live Event.


While you can also livestream from the Ricoh Theta S using the USB-based UVC Blender utility, the UVC Blender is limited to 720p and 15fps (instructions here).  By contrast, the Streambox livestream is 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 30 fps.  With 360 videos, a higher resolution is important because you're only viewing a cropped portion of the video at any given time.


Streambox also supports 4K and HD video streams over any public/private IP network.



You can sign up for the Streambox beta HERE.

Preview of Samsung Gear 360 vs. Ricoh Theta S photo comparison





Finally, I've been able to stitch photos from the Samsung Gear 360.  Unfortunately, it wasn't because I figured out how to make ActionDirector work on my laptop, but rather because I got a [used] Samsung Galaxy S6.  At least now I'll have exposure control and I'll be able to make a more direct comparison with the Ricoh Theta S.




In the meantime, below are test shots I took when I got my Gear 360.  Both were uploaded to Kuula.co.  It appears Kuula resizes them automatically to the same size, which makes it easier to compare them.  But please be aware that these are not the original quality of the files.
















At that time, I had no control over the Gear 360's exposure, could not see a preview of the image, and could not even see the exposure variables.  So the exposures are not identical, which makes the comparison unscientific.  Nonetheless, here they are for what they're worth.  I will make a better (more rigorous) comparison this weekend.



Samsung Gear 360 release date in some EU countries: June 10-11


The Samsung Gear 360 will be available in Germany on June 10!  It will be available direct from Samsung here.  The price is EUR 349, with a 3% discount for Samsung Account Members.

Thanks to @sn_ for spotting this and bringing this to my attention!

It is also available from Samsung Spain on June 11.


For Samsung Denmark, it said it is not available online, but there is an option to buy from a store.  However, it did not say the price or the release date.


Same thing with Samsung Sweden and Belgium - available only in stores, not online.


I checked Samsung UK, France, Italy, Austria, and did not find the Gear 360 available yet. I didn't find the Gear 360 listed yet either in Samsung Japan or Israel.  

For the US, it still shows "Spring 2016"


For other countries, please check your local Samsung website.  If you see it available, please share it in the comments below!

For related posts on the Samsung Gear 360, click here or on one of the labels/tags below the sharing buttons.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Samsung Gear 360 release date: June 10 in Netherlands



According to Telecompaper, the Samsung Gear 360 will be released in Netherlands on June 10, at a price of EUR349. 

The June 10 date is consistent with the mid-June release date given by Sammobile.

360-degree videos of NBA Finals on Twitter

The NBA Finals begin tonight at 9pm ET, featuring a rematch of reigning champs the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are looking for their first NBA championship. 

For the first time, Twitter will offer 360-degree videos, in partnership with Samsung.  The videos will be captured with the Samsung Gear 360, and will include pre- and post-game highlights (e.g. warmups, interviews).  To watch the videos, follow @NBA .

Cinema-Quality 360 Video with a RED Dragon Camera

If you want to know what a 360 video would look like if it were captured by a very high quality sensor, wait no longer.  This music video by Kyla La Grange was captured using a camera with a RED Dragon sensor.  Whereas other 360 cameras use sensors as small as 3 megapixel per lens, the RED Dragon sensor is 19 megapixels, and has a ridiculous 16.5 stops of dynamic range, even better than many full frame still cameras such as the Nikon D800.


Anyway, here's the video:





A 3D version of the video will be released on the upcoming Inception app.

Ricoh adds popularity and visibility to Theta360.com photos



Ricoh added a new feature to the Theta360.com website.  Now you can like photos (Ricoh calls it "Favorite") and see the number of times a photo has been viewed (see above sample, near the bottom right corner).  Hopefully, the new feature should encourage Theta shooters to upload more photos to Theta360.com.


NVidia and AMD are making VR more affordable

Sure, almost everyone who tries true VR (on an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive) comes away very impressed.  However, not everyone can afford the price of the headset plus the cost of a powerful PC required to run a VR system.  NVidia and AMD are trying to change that, at least with respect to the cost of the PC.


One of the most important elements of a VR-ready PC is the graphics card.  While there are a number of PCs that have the minimum required CPU, very few have a graphics card that can meet the stringent requirements of VR, and a VR-capable graphics card is quite expensive.


However, AMD and NVidia announced new models that will make VR more affordable with the release of two new graphics cards.


AMD Radeon RX 480 is a graphics card that is claimed to have similar performance as the NVidia GTX 980, a very capable graphics card that normally retails for $550.  The Radeon RX 480 however, will be priced at just $200.  It will be available June 29.


NVidia is not just going to stand idly by.  It, too, has a new aggressively-priced graphics card.  The NVidia GTX 1070 will have performance similar to, if not better than that of the GTX Titan X, a graphics card that costs over $1,000.  However, the GTX 1070 will be priced at just $379!  It will be available on June 10.




With these powerful yet affordable graphics cards, upgrading a PC to be VR-ready should be within reach of more people.

New Samsung Gear 360 Sample Video Shows Several Ways to Use It



Samsung showed a new video featuring the Samsung Gear 360.  In the video, they showed several ways the Gear 360 can be used to capture video, including an aerial 360 video and time lapse.



The actors weren't just pretending to shoot 360 videos.  Here are the videos that they captured:


Meanwhile, I brought my Gear 360 with me to San Diego over the Memorial Day Weekend and captured lots of videos with it (20 gigs worth).  I started stitching when we got back Monday evening.  Although my laptop has been stitching nonstop, the videos aren't done stitching yet.  Hopefully, I will be able to post samples later.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DEALS: HP Envy VR-ready PC just $849 during Memorial Day Weekend sale


If you are looking for a VR-ready PC, you're in luck.  The HP Envy 750 Desktop PC is a VR-ready PC and is on sale for $849.99 for a special Memorial Day weekend sale -- a $150 discount (15% off) from its $999.99 price!


Here is a link to the sale while it lasts.

More details re 3DR Solo quadcopter dual bracket for Kodak SP360





Here's some more information about the custom dual camera bracket for mounting a pair of Kodak SP360 cameras to a 3DR Solo quadcopter drone.

Kodak SP360 will add stitching tool for fully spherical photos


Soon, you will be able to take fully spherical photos with the Kodak SP360 4k. 


The Kodak SP360 and SP360 4k are hemispherical 360-degree cameras with only one lens.  However, Kodak has a bracket to put two SP360 cameras back-to-back, and thus allow a fully spherical 360-degree capture.  Recently, the Wall Street Journal concluded in its shootout that the SP360 4k dual pro pack has the best video quality among consumer 360 cameras.


Thus far, the SP360's stitching software has only allowed stitching for videos.  However, Kodak Pixpro said that there will be an update "soon" to allow stitching for fully spherical photos as well.



This is welcome news for current and prospective owners of the SP360 4k camera.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Another removable 360-degree camera for your smartphone

There's another removable 360-degree camera for smartphones.  This one is hemispherical, and is made by Taiwan-based Quanta Computer, with a "panomorph" lens by Immervision Enables.  A panomorph lens is similar to a circular fisheye, except that it is oblong, which utilizes a larger portion of a rectangular sensor, thus increasing image quality compared to a circular fisheye for the same sensor.



The Quanta camera is magnetic and attaches to a phone.  It can also be used independently. 

Key specs:
  • field of view: 360 x 187 degrees
  • 16mp Sony Exmor sensor
  • connects to smartphone via Wi-Fi
  • USB port
  • can livestream
The Quanta camera is the second removable 360-degree smartphone camera.  Another removable smartphone camera is the Insta360 Nano, which is a fully spherical 360-degree camera for iPhones.  One advantage of the Quanta is that because it connects via Wi-Fi, it is probably usable with both iPhone and Android.  However, the field of view is only hemispherical, whereas the Nano is fully spherical (and an Android version will be released in the future).  It remains to be seen whether the Quanta camera has better image quality.


Another Google Daydream VR headset, this time from Asus




Mobilegeeks spotted a VR headset from Asus.  It looks strikingly similar to the one from ZTE.  Looking at both headsets gives an even clearer idea of Google's specifications for the Daydream VR, which looks more and more like an open version of the Samsung Gear VR.





Rumor: ALLie is working on a standalone 360 camera


ALLie has a 360-degree camera for your home, but it appears that ALLie is working on a standalone camera as well.


The ALLie Cam is a camera that can livestream in 360 degrees (fully spherical).  It has two fisheye lenses, each paired with an 8-megapixel sensor.  It captures video at true 4k resolution (4096 x 2048), with no blind spots.  It stitches the images in realtime and can livestream to a smartphone via its app, or to YouTube or Facebook. You can check out the impressive image quality of its video samples:




The ALLie is designed to be used at a home or business, and requires being plugged to a power outlet and a stable Wi-Fi connection.  However, it is possible to use it mobile by using a portable USB charger, a USB to Type N power cable, and a Wi-Fi signal (e.g. smartphone hotspot).  Using this method, ALLie has demonstrated that it can be used even on a race car.




Fortunately, this is only a temporary solution, and ALLie appears to be working on a standalone camera.  I don't have any other information about the standalone camera at this time.  But hopefully it provides the same excellent image quality that the ALLie Cam has, and perhaps even livestreaming.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Another sample video from Insta360 Nano


Here's another sample video from the Insta360 Nano at a football game.  (The Nano is a 360-degree camera for the iPhone - previewed here).



The glare from the lights is crazy but the video looks sharper than I expected for an entry-level camera.  What do you think?

Thank you very much to reader 92JKD D for spotting this and bringing it to my attention!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Exo360 is a drone that captures fully spherical 360-degree photo and video


Exo360 is a quadcopter drone equipped with 5 lenses to provide fully spherical photos or videos.  The Exo360 appears to be the first commercially available drone with built-in 360 capability. 

The Exo360 uses 5 fisheye lenses, each with a 210-degree field of view. For the pro model, each lens is paired with a 16mp sensor. For the regular model, each sensor is 12mp. Four of the lenses are coplanar and face the cardinal directions while one lens faces downward. It doesn't have a lens facing upward but it appears that the 4 coplanar lenses have sufficient field of view that when stitched, the upward view is captured as well.

The photo is stitched onboard by the drone's processor. Queen B Robotics claims that the photo resolution is up to 60 megapixels with 4k video at 30 fps (Pro). For the regular model, the video is 1080p at 30fps. 

Queen B also says that the Exo360 can provide a livestream. Although many drones provide a livestream from the onboard camera, in the case of the Exo360, it is a remarkable feat, given that the processor will have to stitch images from five cameras, with a lag that is small enough to allow the drone to be flown using the livestream. One possibility is that the livestream is not a stitched view and instead the user can select which camera to view for the livestream.

As a drone, the Exo360 has a number of unusual features:
- its rotors face downward while almost all drones have rotors facing upward
- a radio controller is "optional". Instead, the Exo360 uses a smartphone. This is unusual for prosumer drones, which have dedicated controllers (often with its own LCD display).
- Most prosumer drones have gimbals for their cameras to provide a stable video (and to rotate the camera). The Exo360 has no gimbal. It doesn't need to rotate the cameras. I am also speculating that the video will be electronically stabilized.
- Some high-end drones have a retractable landing gear so that the landing gear is not visible in the shot when the camera rotates. In the case of the Exo360, four of the cameras are on the perimeter of the drone, while the landing gear is just slightly within the perimeter, outside of the view of the four outward facing cameras. At the same time, because the downward-facing camera doesn't have a gimbal, it can be close to the body, which means the landing gear need not be very tall. The short landing gear stay out of the view of the downward-facing camera.
- Similarly, the rotors are outside the view of the cameras.

The Exo360 has some of the popular features of drones:
- Follow-me
- Orbit / point of interest
- Multiple waypoints
- Dolly mode (cable cam) 
- Return to home

Here is a video playlist showing the Exo360, including sample videos captured by the Exo360:


The Exo360 will begin its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign on May 31, with delivery projected for Fall 2016.

Here is the official page: http://www.queenb-robotics.com